OAKLAND – The new variant of the coronavirus originally found in the UK has arrived in San Diego County – making California the second state to detect the strain, which could be more contagious.
Governor Gavin Newsom announced the discovery in a live chat with Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease specialist. At the time, Newsom said the strain was found in Southern California.
News of the strain’s arrival did not surprise Fauci, who described Covid-19 and other RNA viruses in the same family as ‘making a living by mutating’ and said he had to get here . “I don’t think Californians should feel like this is anything strange,” he said. “It’s something to be expected.”
The new strain: The presence of the new mutated strain in the United States was first documented Tuesday in Colorado. Two patients with this condition have reportedly received the new variant, public health officials reported.
San Diego supervisor Nathan Fletcher said in a press briefing Wednesday that the patient was a 30-year-old male with no travel history.
Mark Ghaly, secretary of the National Agency for Health and Social Services, described the detection as “worrying”.
“As we learn more about how this patient contracted this strain, I would like to stress the importance of continuing our mitigation efforts to prevent Covid-19 and this new strain,” Ghaly said in a statement, urging people to follow public health protocols and to avoid travel and mingling outside of households.
Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, pointed out that early evidence shows the new strain spreads more easily, but doesn’t make people sicker or appear to be more deadly. Fauci said many mutations are irrelevant, but “this particular mutation actually allows the virus to spread better from person to person.”
Circulating Covid-19 vaccines are expected to confer immunity to this strain.
The sudden rise: Fauci spoke to the governor as California experiences a surge that has turned California into the epicenter of the nationwide pandemic. The capacity of intensive care units has reached 0% statewide, with hospitals turning to alternative care sites and other arrangements to care for patients. The rate of new Covid-19 cases has slowed in recent days, but the state has yet to be impacted by Christmas gatherings and travel.
“We have been hit hard, and unfortunately California has [been] hit right now, right now, as bad as anyone, if not worse, “Fauci said. Newsom was quick to retort that California’s positivity rate – or the percentage of positive tests from all Covid-19 tests – is lower than that of many other states.
When asked what was most surprising during the pandemic, Fauci told the governor he expected after the initial restrictions imposed across the country in the spring, the rate of Baseline infection becomes low enough that outbreaks, or he described them, could be contained by methods of case identification, isolation and contact tracing. But the number of cases exploded once the country started to open up.
Fauci also noted that some of the challenges of the pandemic have been more difficult than those he and other public health experts faced during the AIDS / HIV crisis. “It wasn’t something like the division of what we’re seeing right now that really makes implementing public health and public health messages very difficult,” he said.
On vaccinations and reopening: Fauci, who spoke to Newsom on the day the governor released his plan to reopen schools, stressed the importance of safely reopening schools, and noted that schools often have high rates of infection. lower than those of the surrounding community.
Fauci said the country should put more emphasis on antigen testing to monitor outbreaks in places like schools, prisons and nursing homes. With the advent of the vaccine, he said he hoped the country would come to a “semblance of normalcy,” with sports, theater and other big events returning by the fall.
“As we get more and more people vaccinated, we’re going to be looking at this thing in the rearview mirror,” Fauci said.